Anchor Of WVU Defense Looks To Keys Versus OSU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – After a close call in last Saturday’s victory against Baylor, West Virginia and senior linebacker Al Benton look to continue the team’s two game win streak going into Saturday’s important home match-up against number 11 Oklahoma State.
“They always have been one of the best just because of their efficiency,” Benton said of Oklahoma State’s offense. “They’re able to run the ball well and pass the ball well because of that and make a lot of deep plays. The receivers are really good and the quarterback can throw the ball so they’re one of the most well-rounded.”
Benton and the rest of the defense face Oklahoma State’s juggernaut offense led by senior quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has passed for 2,650 yards and 19 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. Rudolph’s 6-5 230-pound frame also allows him to be a scoring threat for quarterback sneaks, as he has scored six rushing touchdowns as well. OK State ranks first in the nation in passing yards per game with 392.7, 41st in rushing yards per game with 191.9, and third in points per game with 43.7.
“Well, they are so explosive on offense,” coordinator Tony Gibson said. “They have the ability to go down the field at any point. (Rudolph) has three or four weapons to throw it to. He is a really good player. From where he was two years when we faced him out here to where he is now, they have done a great job with him. He is as good as anyone in the country.”
With the 2017 season reaching its second half, Benton’s improvements compared to the past season are apparent, as his tackles for a loss increased from one in 2016 to 11.5 in just seven games and his 60 tackles thus far are on pace to finish the season with a career high, breaking his previous of 80. Benton also recorded 2.5 sacks and two passes defended, both being things he hasn’t done in games for the last three years.
“In better shape,” Benton said when comparing himself today to himself last season. “Ready to play more plays. One thing I’ve always said is that it’s not just about being able to play every play it’s about being able to make an impact every play you’re in. So I’ve been working on being able to stay in and play better as the game wears on and it’s been working out for me.”
Despite his improvements, Benton knows there is still more work to be done for the West Virginia defense that’s ranked 102nd in total defense and has three of their last five opponents ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation.
“Play better in pass coverage,” Benton said. “Do a better job helping those guys deep. I’ve been doing a decent job with the run game, I need to get better with my reads as well. Sometimes I’ve just been guessing, going based on what I think they’re gonna do from watching the film and what they like to do from a certain formation.”